The Garden will get a Nash after all. After the New York Knicks fumbled their chance to acquire PG Steve Nash earlier this summer, the Rangers sealed the deal to acquire winger Rick Nash from Columbus at what appears to be a very affordable price -- forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, blue line prospect Tim Erixon and a first-round pick. As Nash gets ready to slip off his blue jacket for a blue shirt, here’s an early look at the potential impact:
What it means: The New York Rangers have landed the summer’s hottest trade-market commodity in what many pundits believe to be a steal of a deal. With the Blueshirts badly in need of scoring after averaging just 2.15 goals per game during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Nash -- a seven-time 30-plus goal scorer -- will instantly infuse some offense into what was sometimes a goal-starved lineup. The trade also adds to the Rangers' current arsenal without depleting its steadily growing stockpile of prospects (recently ranked 13th in ESPN Insider’s Organizational Rankings). With D Tim Erixon the only major young asset heading to Columbus, the Rangers’ Stanley Cup window should remain open even after Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik -- New York's projected top line once Gaborik returns from a torn labrum -- hit the down slope of their careers.
What’s the risk: It seems to be pretty limited in the short term. The Rangers don’t appear to lose much offense from last year’s Cup contender (26 regular-season goals) and bring in one of the foremost snipers in the league. The long term gets a little more dicey. Nash is under contract for six more seasons at $7.8M per year. Should Nash’s production decline, that cap hit could be rather unpalatable in the years to come. Balancing that risk, however, are young guns like Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, who could provide substantial offensive production at very reasonable cap hits ($2.2M combined next season per CapGeek.com) during their early service time.
Fond farewell: A fan favorite, Dubinsky -- and his intriguing facial hair -- is on his way to Columbus. Brought to the Rangers in the 2004 draft, Dubinsky teamed with fellow 2004 draftee Ryan Callahan to form the core around which these new-look, built-from-within Rangers were constructed. His grit on the ice became emblematic of the Rangers' character as a team, playing with a combination of sandpaper, skill and desire that won over the Garden faithful and helped return the Rangers to the top of the Eastern Conference. The 2011-12 season marked a bit of a rough stretch for Dubinsky, as he finished with just 34 points in 77 games, a 20-point dip from the previous campaign.
Erixon’s expectations: Based purely on potential, Erixon has the highest ceiling of any of the Rangers heading to Columbus. Regarded as one of the top defensive prospects in hockey because of his solid two-way game, the Rangers acquired the Swedish-born blueliner from the Calgary Flames last June for a pair of second-round draft picks and prospect Roman Horak. With established defenseman Marc Staal on the shelf to start the season, Erixon was pressed into duty a little ahead of schedule, logging an average of 13 minutes over 18 games and recording two points and a minus-2 rating. While the future could be bright for Erixon -- particularly if he forms a top pairing in Columbus with 2012 No. 2 overall pick Ryan Murray -- the Rangers were dealing from a position of strength here. After the trade, the Blueshirts' blue-line corps still includes mainstays Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto, with prospect Dylan McIlrath and 2012 first-rounder Brady Skjei waiting in the wings. And that doesn’t even figure in the questionable status of Michael Sauer (concussion).
The irony in Erixon’s inclusion in this trade is that it was widely believed he and his representation, um, facilitated his trade to the Rangers -- where his father, Jan, played -- by refusing to sign with the Flames. It wouldn’t be surprising if somewhere in Calgary they’re discussing the nature of karma right now.
What’s next?: Rumors this morning mentioned that the Rangers were not only chasing Nash, but also veteran free-agent wing Shane Doan. Per a source with knowledge of the team's thinking, Katie Strang reports that the Rangers are still in pursuit of the longtime Phoenix Coyotes forward. As it stands, the Rangers have helped shore up a serious question mark heading into the 2012-13 season and figure to remain firmly entrenched as a contender for the Stanley Cup next June.